Speed Dating - The Awkward Marathon

By: Bradford Noble

“Come with me to this Speed Dating thing tomorrow night,”
said my ex-boyfriend Tristan on our way out of Toxic
Avenger The Musical
, “It’s hysterical like the show we just saw, only instead of a geek getting dunked in toxic sludge, we get sprayed in the
face with spittle by guys with bad breath sitting way too close. It’s
completely awkward – you’ll LOVE it. Besides if you don’t come I’m not going

This seemed to be the prevailing mindset as 75 single gay
men - all with their BFF sidekicks - piled into the long rectangle room at the LGBT Center on 13th
. There we sat facing each other in two rows of chairs that
circled the perimeter of the cramped humid space.  

In this speed dating game the men were supposedly
professionals in their 30’s and 40’s (or rather 50’s pretending to be 40’s)
who’d came together to have 20 dates for three minutes each, choreographed to a
screeching whistle blown by our very own pep rally
who stood with his clip board explaining the rules like
our squad coach before the big match. “There will be an additional mingling
period afterward to meet those you might not have been assigned to,” he said in
a forcibly peppy tone.

“Thank god” I said under my breath to Tristan, “Have you
seen the ones we have to meet?”

“Last time we went counter clockwise” said Tristan
conspiratorially, “So I thought the cuties facing us to our left would’ve been our dates.
They must have caught on and switched it up on us.”

We in the front row of chairs this time would be the movers, and
those who sat in the row against the wall would be stationary. “No wonder
they’ve got the padded seats” said Tristan, “We got gypped.” 

At the sound of our mediator saying, “Ready, get set, GO
DATE” we all started talking at once. The crowded utilitarian cinder block room
reverberated with noise and we had to lean in close to hear our, “dates.”

“That’s right,” said the pep captain with too much good
nature in his voice for any New York setting, “Get close and break those
personal spaces!”

“I’d like to break his overly-personal face” I heard Tristan
say under his breath before I had to concentrate harder to hear what was being
shouted at me by my first date Ranjit who sat sweating garlic five inches away.

“So tell me all about yourself in one sentence or less” I
joked, but Ranjit took it seriously and launched into his prepared monologue
about his Staten Island home and job as a radiologist in Midtown, and how he
met his last boyfriend at one of these six months ago.

“Six months? Wow I guess that worked out for you” I wanted to say, but had no time before the whistle blew and we changed. 

The dates flew past in a blur of small-talk like a gay
networking party where you’re asked for your business card before your name.
What are the chances of any of this awkward marathon turning romantic? I
wondered. I supposed about the same as any rushed introduction scenario, only this was surrealism personified.

However, it had worked for some evidently, as Ranjit was not
the only one to attest. Yet here they all were again trying their hand at the game that got them laid once last year, like a gay-bar stool pigeon returning to roost. It all seemed so desperate, and yet
here I was cooing away with the lot of them. 

At the end of an hour we all sat gasping for hydration. Dixie
cups of water were passed around like cocktails, and in turn we all stood to
mingle as if at a casual party where tasty bite-sized nibbles might float
passed on silver trays any second. Not at all like the forcibly contrived
social experiment we all knew we were partaking in.

“This is like the 12-hour dance-a-thon I did at the Jewish
Community Center when I was a kid” I said.

“I didn’t know you were Jewish,” said Tristan.

“I’m not" I said, "And being forced to move around a crowded room
wasn’t fun then either." 

Just then I spotted a guy - the ONE guy I’d made googley eyes with earlier
but didn’t get to meet, so I B-lined over to our mutually palpable relief. After talking to
him, I took out my #2 pencil and filled in the circle on my computerized ballot
card that corresponded to his I.D. tag number. We were encouraged to do this by
her majesty the whistle queen who kept saying, “Don’t be afraid to write
someone down if you liked even one thing about him. If you’re too picky you may
not get your twenty bucks worth.”

At the end they tallied up our “matches” (The ones who also
wrote down our tag numbers). Tristan got 17 – I got three.

None of them worked out. One came over and bored me till he
blew me and we never called each other again, one had too many schedule
conflicts and lived way out by Coney Island, and the one I really liked – the
handsome lawyer I’d stalked - figuratively punched
me in the gut
by telling me after a few dates that he only wanted to
keep things casual – as in fucking but no romance. He’d been to
speed-dating a number of times.

The awkward marathon turned out to be no different than
trying to form a connection when dating off the Internet, only with the
addition of desperation at warp speed. At least when meeting someone by chance,
or through friends, you feel like there’s an element of magic to a possible

Dating can be so convoluted to begin with, it all makes me
wonder if these games we play like bar-hopping, or social networking on
Facebook or Twitter, are just ways to kill time until some magic happens our

So I ask you: When finding yourself in a
dating marathon, how do you hurdle the awkwardness?

BradfordNobleAndDog Based in New York City, Bradford Noble has been an international celebrity,
fashion, and advertising photographer for 15 years. His first novel called, "Dating Bradford - A Memoir" is soon to be published. Still curious? Dive into his world!